Covid-19

CORONAVIRUS GLOBAL UPDATE

CDC tightens mask recommendations; South Africa registers 7,773 new cases

Citizens receive the Covid-19 vaccine at Meadowlands Vaccination Site on 27 July 2021 in Soweto, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images / Papi Morake)
By Bloomberg
27 Jul 2021 0

South Africa registered 7,773 new Covid-19 cases, bringing the cumulative total to 2,391,223. A further 370 Covid-19-related deaths were reported, taking total official deaths to 70,388. A total of 6,854,667 people have been vaccinated.

US health officials returned to tighter guidelines for the use of masks, advising that fully vaccinated individuals wear them in public indoor settings in places where the virus is spreading rapidly.

Centers of Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said on Tuesday that recent data gathered by the agency suggest that some vaccinated people infected with the Delta variant can transmit the virus to others.

Moderna said its vaccine manufacturing partners outside the US are “facing delays” due to laboratory testing issues that occurred in recent days.

The UK reported the highest number of Covid-19 deaths since March, prompting a top government health official to warn the pandemic is “not over yet” despite a continued fall in confirmed cases. India reported its lowest daily count since a second wave driven by the Delta variant started more than four months ago.

Key developments

  • Global Tracker: Cases top 194.8 million; deaths surpass 4.17 million
  • Vaccine Tracker: More than 3.89 billion doses administered
  • Covid delivers an unsettling reality check to the world
  • Pressure for shots grows as patience runs thin for US employers
  • Vaccine reporting called taxing for short-staffed nursing homes
  • Can I be required to get vaccinated against Covid-19?: QuickTake

UK to welcome vaccinated tourists 

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce on Wednesday that fully vaccinated tourists from the European Union and US can travel to England, according to the Financial Times, which cited government officials briefed on the discussions. The change could take effect as early as next week, the newspaper said.

Moderna cites foreign manufacturing delays

Moderna said its Covid-19 vaccine manufacturing partners outside the US are “facing delays” due to laboratory testing issues that occurred in recent days.

While the problem has been resolved, it has slowed the release of Moderna’s vaccine to markets outside the US, a company spokeswoman said in an email.

The problem will cause short-term adjustments to vaccine delivery outside the US, she said in the email. Shares fell as much as 4.5% in New York trading on Tuesday.

US Returning to tighter mask guidelines

US health officials will return to tighter guidelines for the use of masks, advising that fully vaccinated individuals wear them in public indoor settings in places where the virus is spreading rapidly as part of a response to the spread of the delta variant.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will recommend that teachers, staff, students and visitors to K-12 schools wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status, according to a preview of guidance to be released later today. Children should return to full-time, in-person learning in the fall with prevention strategies in place, the preview said.

Ireland to offer shots for kids 12 to 15

Ireland will offer vaccines to children aged 12 to 15, the government said on Tuesday. “This will be reviewed from a planning, operational and clinical perspective in the coming days,” it said in a statement. The shot is already available to anyone over 16. The move comes amid an acceleration of the vaccination programme in the face of the Delta variant: 69% of the population is now fully inoculated. Ireland will also double the number of people allowed to attend weddings to 100.

CDC to update mask guidance

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was expected to recommend on Tuesday that people vaccinated for the coronavirus resume wearing masks indoors in certain areas of the country, The New York Times reported. The move would reverse a decision made two months ago.

The change comes as the Delta variant of the coronavirus, first identified in India, surges in the US, where it accounts for about 83% of new cases. As recently as last week, the CDC said it had no plans to change its recommendations.

New York City moves homeless as cases rise

New York City resumed the process of transferring thousands of homeless people from pandemic hotel rooms back to crowded group shelters on Monday, two weeks after a judge halted the moves, The New York Times reported.

The transfers, which caused confusion outside at least two hotels in midtown Manhattan, came amid growing concerns about a surge in cases citywide and despite objections from homeless advocates, the newspaper said.

Dutch weekly cases drop by almost 50%

Weekly cases in the Netherlands fell almost 50%, while hospital admissions rose to 538, the highest since mid-June, the national health service reported. There were 37,343 cases in the week ending July 27, down from 69,731. The government on Monday said a ban on multi-day events such as music festivals will be extended until at least September 1.

Israel allows shots for ages 5-11 at high risk

Israel will allow vaccinations for children aged 5-11 who are at high risk of falling seriously ill or dying from Covid-19. The Health Ministry didn’t issue a blanket recommendation for vaccine use in the age group, instead listing conditions such as obesity and chronic severe lung disease as prerequisites.

Saudi to restrict travel for rule-breakers

Saudi Arabia will impose a three-year travel restriction on those who visit any country on its banned list, state-run Saudi Press Agency reported on Tuesday. Saudis were given permission to go to certain countries outside the kingdom from May 17, provided they have been vaccinated or recovered from the virus. In July, the Saudi authorities banned travel to and from the UAE, Ethiopia and Vietnam, over concerns about the spread of variants.

Johnson warns UK to remain cautious

Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned against drawing “premature conclusions” after new cases in the UK dropped for a sixth day, saying people must remain “very cautious.”

Government officials and scientists point out that the latest numbers don’t yet reflect the impact of lifting virtually all pandemic restrictions in England on July 19. Given the lag between infections and hospitalisations, it will take some weeks before lower case numbers translate into easing pressure on the National Health Service.

Indonesia marks another deadliest day

Indonesia marked another grim record as 2,069 people died from Covid-19 over 24 hours. The Southeast Asian country has been reporting the highest number of deaths worldwide in recent days.

The Delta variant has crippled the country’s healthcare system and depleted the supply of oxygen tanks. Indonesia’s number of new confirmed cases reached a three-week low on Monday before rebounding to 45,203 on Tuesday.

Iran posts second day of record infections

Iran reported a record number of daily new cases for the second straight day at 34,951. The death toll rose for a fourth day to 357, the highest in 10 weeks, the latest Health Ministry data showed. The country has reported 89,479 fatalities and over 3.7 million known infections.

Singapore local cases stay above 100

Singaporean authorities found 136 locally spread cases, the government said, marking over a week of daily tallies exceeding 100. Thirty-six cases were linked to a fishery port cluster while two were connected to karaoke lounges, the Health Ministry said.

Fifty-five of the new cases are currently unlinked, raising concerns of undetected spread even after the government imposed measures last week to curb transmission risk.

Tokyo cases leap to record amid Games

Daily infections in Tokyo surged to a record 2,848, about double the number found a week earlier, just as the Japanese capital hosts tens of thousands for the Olympics.

Tuesday’s figure eclipses a previous peak of 2,520 set in January. Serious cases rose to 82 from 78 a day earlier, and the seven-day average of new infections rose to about 1,763, figures released by the city showed. Experts had earlier expressed fears that Tokyo infections could reach their worst-ever levels during the games, due to the spread of the Delta variant.

Within the Olympics itself, new cases associated directly with the Games fell to seven, including two athletes, one of them a tennis player from the Netherlands, organisers said. The report brings to 155 the total number of Olympics-related cases confirmed through an extensive testing programme being implemented to try to maintain safety during the Games.

India has lowest cases in more than four months

India added 29,689 cases on Tuesday, the lowest daily count since a second wave driven by the Delta variant started more than four months ago. The total tally stands at 31.4 million. The country has administered 441.9 million shots so far, but only about 7% of the country’s population is fully inoculated, according to Bloomberg’s vaccine tracker. Covid-related deaths rose by 415 in a day to 421,382, according to Indian Health Ministry data.

Thailand backs herbal Covid drug

The Thai Cabinet approved the use of medicine made from green chiretta extract to treat asymptomatic cases, government spokeswoman Rachada Dhnadirek said. The traditional medicine will be used as an alternative treatment to help reduce the strain on the public health system, she said.

Separately, Somsak Akksilp, director-general of the Department of Medical Services, said current infections in Bangkok and surrounding provinces are at least three times higher than what the public health system can handle. A government spokesman earlier said the country had started transferring patients from Bangkok to the country’s northeast to reduce the strain.

The nation reported 14,150 new infections on Tuesday, taking cumulative cases to 526,828. There are 171,921 patients who are hospitalised, with 4,284 in critical condition and 954 on ventilators, according to Health Ministry data. Thailand isn’t facing a shortage of oxygen, according to the government.

Phuket tourism experiment risks suspension

A flareup in cases in Phuket, Thailand’s first tourism hotspot to waive quarantine for vaccinated foreign visitors, is threatening to scuttle the experiment seen as a model for other tourism-reliant nations to reopen borders.

The resort island reported 125 new cases during the week ending July 27, higher than the government-set threshold that could trigger a temporary suspension of the programme. In response, local authorities closed public schools and shopping malls and banned gatherings of more than 100.

The majority of new cases were among local residents, and all the high-risk contacts on the island have been isolated, officials said. Only 26 vaccinated visitors out of the more than 11,800 have tested positive since the so-called Phuket Sandbox was launched on July 1, they said.

EU achieves vaccination target

The European Union has achieved its target to protect 70% of adults with at least one vaccination by July, according to a statement by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.Fifty-seven percent of adults are fully vaccinated.

Indian fatalities could be above 3 million

India’s actual Covid-19 fatalities could be between 2.7 million and 3.3 million, according to a study by public health experts, compared with the official death toll of 421,382. The study, co-authored by Prabhat Jha, professor at the University of Toronto, and Paul Novosad from the department of economics at Dartmouth College, based its estimates on excess mortality recorded across eight states and seven cities comprising over a third of the country’s population between June 2020 and June 2021.

South African virus death toll passes 70,000

South Africa’s official death toll from Covid-19 has passed 70,000, meaning that more than 10,000 people have died in the last month, the National Institute of Communicable Diseases said. Over the last 24 hours 243 deaths from the disease were reported, bringing the total to 70,018, the NICD said in a statement on Monday.

South Africa’s actual number of deaths from the virus could exceed 200,000, according to excess death studies by the South African Medical Research Council, which tracks the number of deaths above the historical norm in weekly reports. With more than 2.3 million recorded cases, South Africa has the highest number of recorded infections on the continent.

Italy may force teachers to get shots

Italy’s government is evaluating making vaccinations for teachers mandatory, daily Corriere della Sera reported on Tuesday, without citing any source. The measure may be approved by the end of this week, after a possible government-unions meeting, the newspaper said.

Biotech billionaire to trial vaccine in South Africa

US biotech billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong is backing a Covid-19 vaccine candidate that he sees as having potential as a universal booster of other pandemic shots.

ImmunityBio, of which the 68-year-old holds about 13%, is developing a vaccine called hAd5 that’s intended to specifically activate T-cells that scientists believe are a key part of the immune response against Covid. This quarter, the South African-born biotech tycoon will begin trials in the country, the scene of what he calls a Covid-19 “firestorm.” DM

– With assistance from Soraya Permatasari, Eunice Chua, Randy Thanthong-Knight, Jason Scott, Muneeza Naqvi, Bibhudatta Pradhan, Malavika Kaur Makol and Peter Flanagan.

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